The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) hosts one of the largest ed tech conferences in the country. More than 10,000 teachers, librarians, administrators and other education leaders from around the globe are gathering at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, June 26-29 for ISTE 2011 to discover cutting-edge technologies, to exchange best practices with peers, and to determine the best ways to make learning more engaging and accessible for students and educators alike.

If you are one of the 10,000+ attendees going to Philadelphia this year, I thought I’d provide a couple ISTE survival tips to help you get the most out of your conference-going experience.

1.       Make a Personal Daily Schedule
With a plethora of sessions going on every day ISTE – from online learning to social media to one-to-one initiatives –  it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed when trying to select the best ones to fit your interest. I suggest using the conference planner tool on the ISTE website to build your daily schedules so that you don’t feel like you’re aimlessly wandering around the giant convention center (been there, done that). The conference planner has an advanced search option built in that allows users to browse through sessions based on category, theme/strand, audience type and level, and even by the various NETS standards. So helpful!

2.       Wear Comfortable Shoes
I’ve come to find that all convention centers are basically 3+ levels of concrete mazes. You could easily end up walking 5 miles or more trying to get from registration to session meeting rooms to the exhibit hall, all in one morning.  Therefore, comfortable shoes are a MUST. This goes for exhibitors too. Unless you spent thousands of dollars on plush, massaging carpet padding, you’ll need a cushy pair of shoes to get you through three days on your feet.

3.       Save Your Back
After attending many informative sessions and cruising through the Exhibit Hall, most likely you will end up with lots of brochures, case studies, giveaways and other fun goodies that you’ll want to take back with you. I’ve seen too many attendees in the past with bend-over backs and weighted-down shoulders trying to lug all these items around until last day of the conference. Instead, you can either hire a personal assistant to carry your things for you (only half-kidding) or use your empty rolling suitcase to tote around with you. Then, ship the contents home at the end of the conference. Exhibitors are more than happy to give you leftover boxes and most convention centers have shipping centers to help you get your valuables home safely. Your back will thank you for it!

4.       Stay Connected with Twitter
If you don’t already have a Twitter account, I suggest setting one up and referring to it throughout the conference. It’s a great way to keep on top of sessions and events going on in the moment, as well as staying in touch with colleagues and exhibiting companies after ISTE ends. Here’s a few suggestions of accounts and hash tags to follow to get you started: @ISTE, #ISTE11, @Blackboardk12, #blackboard, and keynotes #StephenCovey and @ChrisLehmann.

5.       Visit the Blackboard Booth
We have a lot in store for ISTE attendees this year, and I hope you will stop by booth 303 in the Exhibit Hall where we are announcing the latest product news, demoing our K-12 solutions, and sharing client success stories throughout all three days of the conference (view the booth presentation schedule). We will have our experts onsite to answer questions, and anyone who stops by can enter for a chance to win an iPad 2!

I’d also like to invite you to the Blackboard K-12 reception on Monday night. Come unwind after a long day of sessions on the 33rd floor terrace of the Loews Hotel. Grab a drink and some treats while you catch up with colleagues and enjoy a spectacular view of downtown Philadelphia . After walking around the massive convention center all day, you’ll need the break! Register Now

I hope these survival tips are useful to you and will help you to navigate ISTE with ease. If you can’t make it to ISTE this year, be sure to check out their virtual workshops and remote conference options to get in on the fun and learning. See you in Philadelphia!

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